Socialist leader Pedro Sánchez has lodged a ‘no-confidence’ motion against national president Mariano Rajoy in response to the current reigning PP party’s having been found guilty of benefiting financially from a multi-million-euro corruption scandal dating back to the 1980s.
According to the National Court, it has been proven that the right-wing party had an ‘off-the-record’ accounting system to record cash bribes received from businesses in exchange for lucrative public works contracts – cash that was distributed among top-flight party members and used to fund electoral campaigns and was not declared to the tax authorities.
Four of the PP’s five treasurers – excluding the current one – was known to have been involved, and the most recent, Luis Bárcenas, held up to €48.2 million in Swiss bank accounts to hide it from the public coffers.
When a judge ordered the PP to hand in Bárcenas’ computers for investigation, the party arranged for the hard drives to be wiped first.
Bárcenas has been jailed for 33 years, his wife Rosalía Iglesias for 15, the ringleader of the so-called ‘Gürtel’ corruption racket, Francisco Correa, for 51 years, and several PP councillors and ex-regional ministers imprisoned for a minimum of four years.
Rajoy, who was party leader from 2004 and has been president since November 2011, has always denied the existence of the ‘underground’ accounts, dubbed ‘Cashbox B’, and said the party never received any illicit funding.
But now that the PP has been found guilty – the first time in history that a political party has been sentenced for a criminal offence – its direct rivals, the PSOE, believes Rajoy should do the decent thing and resign.
Rajoy has no intention of doing so, and says PSOE leader Pedro Sánchez ‘just wants to be president at all costs’.
During the Parliamentary debate yesterday (Friday), Rajoy warned that if the PP was to be ousted from office, Spain’s ‘economic recovery’ would be in jeopardy.
Opposition parties have questioned this ‘economic recovery’, given that although unemployment is down from 25% to around 17%, around 95% of workers are on temporary contracts of just a few weeks earning the minimum wage, and it has recently transpired that the country’s debt is rising dramatically.
Could the PP be ousted?
For Sánchez’s no-confidence motion to prosper, it would need the backing of an outright majority or 176 out of 351 MPs.
Left-wing Podemos, Spain’s third-largest political party, has already agreed to support the PSOE, but this would only give 151 votes in favour.
Support from regional outfits including the Basque National Party (PNV) and Catalunya Left Republicans (ERC) would be needed – and probably quite likely, given that Catalunya’s self-governing powers have been removed by Rajoy in response to the region’s disputed independence referendum – in addition to votes from MPs in the Grupo Mixto (‘Mixed Group’), made up of a melting pot of independent regional parties and lone MPs, including the Basque Reunification Party (EH Bildu), Compromís, based in Valencia, UPN from Navarra, PDeCAT and JxCAT from Catalunya, the Canarian Coalition, Nueva Canaria (‘New Canarian’) and the FAC.
Otherwise, the motion can only be successful if the PSOE and Podemos are backed by centrist party Ciudadanos, whose vote in favour during Rajoy’s swearing-in ceremony was all that stood between his presidency and a third general election.
Ciudadanos, led by Albert Rivera, has always made a point of stressing to the PP that without its support, it cannot govern and that it would consider withdrawing its support if at any time it felt the PP’s leadership was harmful to Spain.
Rivera’s team does not support Sánchez’s no-confidence vote against Rajoy but has asked Rajoy to call a snap election.
If he does not, Ciudadanos may consider backing the no-confidence motion, but will not make this decision until its AGM on June 11.